Tag: John Lackey

Pittsburgh Pirates v St Louis Cardinals

Carlos Martinez to return to Cardinals’ rotation on Friday


Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez was scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday night against the Nationals with what was described as a minor back issue. The decision was really more about limiting the 23-year-old’s workload, which is something the Cardinals are now doing with 24-year-old righty Michael Wacha. Proof of that is Martinez getting clearance to return to the rotation Friday in St. Louis’ big series opener versus the Pirates.

J.J. Bailey of KMOV says Martinez will go Friday, Jaime Garcia will take Saturday, and John Lackey will pitch Sunday. This means Lance Lynn is going to get some extra time to rest his rolled right ankle.

St. Louis opened play Tuesday with a six-game lead over Pittsburgh in the National League Central standings. Martinez boasts a 2.91 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 154 2/3 innings this season.

Paul Goldschmidt crushed the longest homer of his career

Paul Goldschmidt

Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt hit the longest home run of his career Wednesday night, going 482 feet to left-center off Cardinals right-hander John Lackey.

Seriously, look where this ball ended up. It’s ridiculous.

Goldschmidt has been a great hitter since the moment he debuted in 2011, but he’s taken things to another level this season by hitting a career-high .331 with 25 homers, 96 walks, a league-leading 94 RBIs, and a career-high 1.017 OPS in 125 games.

Let’s all argue about team chemistry again

Giants Celebration

Team chemistry arguments are pretty played out. Yet people still try to turn team chemistry discussions into zero sum arguments and employ caricatures and straw men of their perceived opponents in the debate to make their case. It’s almost always baseball writer driven, of course, and the latest example comes from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

It’s the usual fare. A story of people talking about chemistry after the fact rather than before the fact (please find me an example, anywhere, where “good chemistry” stories appeared in newspapers before the winning, not vice-versa, and no, standard spring training optimism stories don’t count). A story in which the writer has a preconceived notion about team chemistry and finds several players who give him quotes which fit into those preconceived notions. Quotes like this one from John Lackey:

“It’s really undervalued,’’ St. Louis Cardinals veteran starter John Lackey told USA TODAY Sports, “especially in today’s world with all of the numbers guys.”

We can put all kinds of numbers on players’ talent, from RBI to WAR, to ERA to FIP, but when it comes to the heart and soul of a clubhouse, there remains no measuring stick.

“The numbers guys can’t quantify that one,’’ Lackey said, “so they don’t want to believe in it.’’

John Lackey, by the way, was a big part of the “Chicken and Beer” Red Sox of 2011. Back then he said this in response to all of the media people who claimed that team’s collapse was all about bad chemistry:

“Guys having a beer after their start has been going on for the last 100 years,’’ Lackey said. “This is retarded. It’s not like we were sitting up there doing it every night. It’s not even close to what people think.’’

What about reports of players drinking in the dugout? “They [media] just see how far they can go,’’ he said. “That’s just a flat-out lie.’’

Is he willing to acknowledge that mistakes were made? “I guess. Sure. They’re being made in every clubhouse in the big leagues, then. If we’d have made the playoffs, we’d have been a bunch of fun guys.’’

Which is absolutely true. A few better pitching performances a few more wins and the Sox would’ve been in the playoff lottery, the Chicken and Beer Brigade being just as famous as the 2004 Idiots.

Giants pitcher Jake Peavy had this to say:

“We’re in a game today where everybody wants to think they can formulate, or come up with some kind of number,’’ says Giants starter Jake Peavy, who like Lackey, has won World Series titles with two organizations. “You turn on some of these baseball shows, and nobody wants to talk about the San Francisco Giants, because numbers can’t explain how we won last year.

“They don’t want to talk about clubhouse chemistry.”

You can place some numbers on that, Jake. Numbers like 2-0, 1 save, 0.43 ERA, 21 IP, K/BB ratio of 17/1, 9 hits allowed. That’s Madison Bumgarner’s World Series line. Or how about 2.17? That’s your own ERA after coming over to the Giants in a trade, significantly improving a battered pitching staff down the stretch. Or 8? That’s the number of position player starters the Giants had with an OPS+ over 100. Or 1: the number of managers they have who are considered the best in the game today. Or “many” being the number of people who have come to believe that Brian Sabean is among the best at filling holes on seemingly flawed teams and turning them into winners when it matters. Chemistry may be nice, but talent, in all of its forms, matters more.

And the distribution of talent across the season matters. Baseball is not a 25-man vs. 25-man contest in real time. Matchups matter and Bruce Bochy is really good at making sure he matches up better than you most of the time. Timing matters too. People like to talk about how, say, the Dodgers have more talent than the Giants. Maybe so over the course of 162 games last season or this season. But in world where ten teams make the playoffs, the overall talent discussion is irrelevant. Who, among those ten teams, plays better in October is what determines which team wins the World Series and the Giants performance in October has been a function of applied talent over a short period of time in three of the past five seasons, not chemistry. Unless, that is, you think Madison Bumgarner’s heroics last year, Pablo Sandoval’s .500/.529/1.125 line in the 2012 World Series or Edgar Renteria hitting .412 with two homers in 2010 was all a function of good vibes. Good players — of whom have a track record for high-level performance and an extraordinary amount of talent — are why the Giants have a fist full of World Series rings.

But, as is often the case, the pro-chemistry people will likely respond to me with some variation on “you never played the game so you don’t know.” Well, they’re right. So let me defer to my cosmic associate. His name is Jim Leyland, and he knows a thing or two about baseball. Here’s what he said to the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore 2010 when asked about how Pudge Rodriguez was aiding the Washington Nationals’ team chemistry:

“Take all that clubhouse [stuff] and all that, throw it out the window. Every writer in the country has been writing about that [nonsense] for years. Chemistry don’t mean [anything]. He’s up here because he’s good. That don’t mean [a hill of beans]. They got good chemistry because their team is improved, they got a real good team, they got guys knocking in runs, they got a catcher hitting .336, they got a phenom pitcher they just brought up. That’s why they’re happy.”

Those brackets hide a lot of references to horse excrement in case you’re not familiar with Mr. Leyland’s patois.

I’ve said this 100 times before and I’ll say it 100 times again. Working with people you like is way better than working with people you don’t like. Having guys in the clubhouse who make your life and job better is always preferable to having guys who make it work. I’ll even grant, based on the testimony of players I have spoken to, that there is at least some intangible yet real benefit if everyone is happy an gelling. I’d always try to get rid of bad seeds if I ran a team, at least as long as their bad seeding was not outweighed by seriously outstanding on-the-field play.

But good chemistry doesn’t make teams win. Good chemistry is a product of winning. And bad chemistry is, very, very often, a product of guys reacting poorly to losing (just ask Cole Hamels about that). To suggest that the “numbers guys” are mistaken when they say that talent trumps that stuff is just bunk.

Settling the Score: Saturday’s results

Mark Reynolds, John Lackey

It was yet another victorious slate of games for the cream of the crop in the National League Central.

The division-leading Cardinals cruised to an easy 6-2 win over the visiting Marlins, with Mark Reynolds slugging a three-run home run and John Lackey pitching into the eighth inning. The second-place Pirates came out on top 5-3 in a 14-inning affair with the Mets, the go-ahead RBI coming from the bat of backup catcher Chris Stewart. And the third-place Cubs took care of the crosstown White Sox by a score of 6-3 for their ninth straight win. That’s the longest current winning streak in the major leagues and it has given the Northsiders a big 4 1/2 game cushion for the second National League Wild Card spot.

All three of those NL Central clubs are currently locked into postseason spots.

And they will all be looking to complete series sweeps on Sunday.

Your box scores and AP recaps from Saturday …

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 1

Mariners 10, Red Sox 22

Athletics 3, Orioles 4

Cubs 6, White Sox 3

Angels 4, Royals 9

Phillies 2, Brewers 4

Indians 1, Twins 4

Diamondbacks 8, Braves 4

Tigers 4, Astros 2 (11 innings)

Marlins 2, Cardinals 6

Pirates 5, Mets 3 (14 innings)

Rays 4, Rangers 12

Padres 7, Rockies 5

Reds 3, Dodgers 8

Nationals 6, Giants 12

Settling the Score: Saturday’s results

Jaime Garcia

Jaime Garcia went seven scoreless innings and rookie outfielder Stephen Piscotty hit a pair of RBI singles as the Cardinals bested the Brewers 3-0 on Saturday night at Milwaukee’s Miller Park. Garcia now holds a 1.77 ERA through 66 innings (10 starts) this season and the Cardinals’ pitching staff has combined for 36 straight scoreless frames.

They’ve rattled off three shutouts in a row.

St. Louis stands 71-39 with a six-game lead over the Pirates in the National League Central standings. Sunday afternoon’s series finale in Milwaukee pits veteran John Lackey against Jimmy Nelson.

Lackey is sporting the best ERA (2.85) of his illustrious 13-year major league career.

Your box scores and AP recaps from Saturday …

Blue Jays 6, Yankees 0

Astros 1, Athletics 2

Giants 6, Cubs 8

Dodgers 5, Pirates 6

Rangers 11, Mariners 3 (11 innings)

Mets 4, Rays 5

Rockies 1, Nationals 6

Red Sox 6, Tigers 7

White Sox 6, Royals 7

Cardinals 3, Brewers 0

Twins 4, Indians 17

Marlins 2, Braves 7

Reds 4, Diamondbacks 1

Phillies 4, Padres 2

Orioles 5, Angels 0